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In the latter part of the 12th century, St. Hedwig was married to the Duke of Lower Silesia, Henry the Bearded. She soon became a mother, ultimately giving birth to six children.
From the beginning, the young duchess was beloved like a beautiful queen, thanks to her prompt generosity, which always was ready to comfort and support the poorest and most needy among them.
Although she was German, she was close to her people, and learned from them their Polish language. She was so modest that she was able, in an unheard-of way, to disregard the fashions that her rank would have imposed upon her. Hedwig was not too proud to dress herself in used clothing and old shoes. She did not want to stand out from the poor, because, she said, “They are our masters.”
Hedwig expressed this conviction to Gertrude, the youngest of her six children. Her life as a wife and mother had been filled with many sorrows. The duchess, who had stood by her husband and assisted him in his duty of governing, had witnessed the death of three sons and two of her three daughters. She bore her pain with composure, a result not only of the attitudes of her time and culture, but of her strong Christian faith. She found comfort in the daily life of faith and prayer.
As time passed, she found herself attracted more to consecrated life. After the death of her husband, entering into a monastery was a natural step for Hedwig. She chose the Cistercian monastery of Trebnitz, which Hedwig herself had founded in 1202. The duchess took up the religious habit of a lay sister.
When she died, on Oct. 15, 1243, no one had any doubts: it was the death of a saint. She was formally canonized by Pope Clement IV in 1267.